Saturday, May 23, 2009

Childress clarifies his statements

Former Atlanta Hawks swingman Josh Childress asserted on Friday that violence he witnessed in the stands while playing in Greece's top professional league won't influence his decision on whether to stay in Europe for another season.

"The fans are obviously very passionate because we're in the finals of the Greek championship," Childress, in Athens, said by phone to The Associated Press. "Yes, there was unnecessary violence. It obviously doesn't help the game. It doesn't help the players, but that will not have an effect on my decision about where I play next year."

On Thursday night, the opening game of the Greek finals was interrupted for nearly 20 minutes with 1:25 to play and Panathinaikos, the visiting team, leading 60-58. Olympiakos fans threw a flare, plastic bottles and other items at Panathinaikos' bench during a timeout, sending the players scampering for safety. A timekeeper was slightly injured and part of the bench and the surrounding court had burn marks.

Enraged fans tried to storm the court despite pleas for calm by Olympiakos players. Riot police moved in to contain the spectators. Childress spoke out against fan violence after the contest, saying "The violence we saw today, will make me think real hard over my future in Europe." On Friday, he amended those statements, saying he believed some of his comments were misinterpreted in a way that made it appear he wished to leave Greece after this season.

"I'm enjoying my time here. It's been a great experience. It's been a learning experience, and I think a lot of things will shake out in the next few weeks as we finish up the season here," Childress said. Last July, the Greek club Olympiakos signed Childress to a three-year contract that his agent, Jim Tanner, said was worth $20 million after taxes.

Childress has the option to opt out of the deal after each season. If he returned to the NBA, the Hawks, who lost to Cleveland in the second round of this season's playoffs, would still have the rights to him as a restricted free agent. Childress said he followed the Hawks this season, watching games when he could, and communicated with fans on the Internet.

"I've gotten some great fan support from the Atlanta fans, via the Web sites," Childress said. However, Childress said he has yet to get a sense from general manager Rick Sund about whether the Hawks intend to try to woo him back next season. "I haven't spoken to him at all, really. That's something I'm sure he'll get with my agent about in the next few weeks," Childress said. "I don't know what they're thinking."

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